Hard Travelin' Grammas Tour Israel to Film TV Show

African-American duo of 'Grannies on Safari' criss-crosses the Holy Land for two episodes on 'rural' and 'urban' Israel.

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Regina Fraser and Pat Johnson are the walking embodiment of that famous U.S. investment house commercial from the 1970s: When they talk, people listen. And, in the case of these two African-American grandmothers from Chicago, Illinois, who host "Grannies on Safari" - a six-year-old travel show that has aired in more than 120 countries - millions are likely to tune in for the two episodes they shot this week during their visit to Israel.

"I was especially moved by the Hassidic exhibition," said Fraser, 77, after she visited the much-talked-about collection of traditional garb at the Israel Museum in Jerusalem. "It was eye-opening."

It has been nearly 15 years since Fraser and Johnson last visited Israel - so long ago that Masada didn't yet have its now-iconic cable car. Their ascent to the ancient fortification was one of their priority stops after they were recently invited to film in Israel by the country's Tourism Ministry.

"We said we'd love to come," said Johnson, a 68-year-old former museum administrator who marveled at the new, multimillion dollar wing of the Tel Aviv Museum and the recent, near-total renovation of the Israel Museum. "I think it's the most comprehensive and expansive museum campus that I've visited so far," said Johnson. "It reflects Israeli culture and heritage in a unique [way]."

Fraser and Johnson criss-crossed the country for six days, and their two 30-minute segments looking at "rural" and "urban" Israel will be broadcast in the spring on public television stations. Though the segments will not air in Israel, excerpts will be posted on the program's YouTube channel.

At Yad Vashem, where a production crew filmed them on location, Fraser said she was overwhelmed. "I looked at a picture of a girl who was the age of my youngest granddaughter, and it made me cry," she said.

The grannies' production schedule did not bring them to Israel's southern region, where missile barrages fell over communities bordering Gaza. "We didn't omit the southern part of Israel because of security concerns," explains Fraser. "There just wasn't enough time to really do the country justice. ... Otherwise you're just doing a 'drive-by' and you miss the opportunities to truly focus on little parts that make this region so unique."

"There's more to see in Israel than just the Holy Land," adds Fraser, who rode horseback along the Sea of Galilee, and who noted the country's reputation for restaurants and fine wine. She said she hoped to convey the sense that "Israel is a very developed country."

As far as their advice for dealing with Israel's little frustrations - rude taxi drivers, for example - Regina, a mother of two and grandmother of three, wasn't fazed.

"It makes no difference to me," said Fraser, a native of Los Angeles. "I would tell them, just make believe you're in New York City."

Regina Fraser, second to left, at the Jaffa flea market last week.Credit: Courtesy Grannies on safari